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Fiadone (Corsican Cheesecake)

Fiadone with fresh cherries doused in eau de vie.

A small, inset picture in an article in Waitrose’s magazine – but unaccompanied with instructions – inspired me to look for this recipe. The texture is grainier than a cheesecake made with cream cheese, but it is also more juicy and succulent. Lemon zest gives it fragrance and lift. This is a very quick and simple recipe. In Corsica it is made with Brocciu cheese, a fresh sheep cheese, but Ricotta can be substituted. If anyone tries it with soft sheep or goat cheese, please let me know how it turns out (unless I beat you to it). Also the lemon zest may be replaced with orange zest or orange flower water.

To make a lighter Fiadone, it is possible to separate the whites from the yolks of the eggs and beat them until stiff separately before adding them back into the mix.

 

Ingredients:

500g fresh Brocciu cheese (or Ricotta)

5 eggs

200g sugar

zest of half an unwaxed lemon

one shot of eau de vie (I used kirschwasser)

a knob of butter (‘une noix de beurre’)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C

In a bowl, whip the eggs with the sugar and lemon zest until foamy, then add the cheese bit by bit, continue to whip briskly as you go. When the cheese is thoroughly worked into the mixture, beat in a shot of eau de vie.

Pour the batter into a buttered pie dish or springform pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Despite the eggs, this cake will rise only very slightly and collapse again after being removed from the oven. Serve cool.

New Potatoes with Raclette

Haiku for Corva Korax

Melt Raclette on top

of hot halved new potatoes

and serve with white wine

Roasted Beets with Skordalia

Skordalia, coyly posing with some of its raw ingredients

Skordalia, draped like velvet over richly roasted beets

This is quite simply one of my very favourite foods. Starchy, oily, garlicky skordalia crowning sweetly concentrated roasted beets. Skordalia, to be absolutely traditional, should be a quite white paste made with potatoes or bread with the crusts removed. Mine is non-traditional. I like to leave the crusts on the bread I use. The stale bread for skordalia is also commonly soaked in water to soften it up beforehand, but I like to soak mine in dry white wine.

To roast the beets, wrap them in foil individually, or place them in a covered crock, and put them in a medium-hot oven for an hour or so. Once cool, their skins should schlup right off. Slice and serve.

 

Ingredients:

Stale bread

Dry white wine

Extra-virgin olive oil

Garlic

Salt

 

Method:

The proportions are pretty rough, but for a large batch you might use 10 oz. bread to 1 cup olive oil and 6-8 cloves of garlic. Soften up the bread beforehand by sprinkling it with wine. You don’t want puddles, just moistness. Chop the garlic and toss it in the blender, followed by the bread and the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Add more olive oil or wine if it appears too thick. Pour and/or scrape it into a bowl. That’s it!

Asparagus and Blue Cheese Pasta Salad

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I make this salad every year when the asparagus is at its most plentiful. It makes a large batch, but it doesn’t last long. Asparagus and blue cheese are really made for each other – the salty tang of the cheese perfectly counterbalancing the fresh green crunch of the young shoots. This is an ideal and very simple early summer salad.

Ingredients:

500g mezze penne or penne pasta

3 bunches slender asparagus (about 750g), cut in segments the same length as the pasta

1 small red onion, diced

150g Danish blue cheese, crumbled

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Optional: 1 small bunch chives, thinly sliced, and/or 1 small bunch parsley, chopped

Method:

Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted water. When the pasta is nearly al dente (about 9 mins depending upon the brand of pasta), add the asparagus to the same pot, and cook 3-4 minutes until just done. Drain the whole lot in a colander and cool quickly under running cold water so that it doesn’t cook further. I then transfer the whole lot back to the pot to mix it all up. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together.

Served fresh, the flavours are sprightly and the onions strong. The onions will mellow on the next day, as will the lemon flavour. From the salad’s second day of life, serve it up with a wedge of lemon to restore its bright citrus character.

Zucchini, Rice, and Feta Cakes

ImageMy partner hates rice pudding, so in our household, leftover rice has a way of making it into patties of various types and soups. Consider this recipe as a base – you can always vary the quantities to suit the amount of leftover rice you have. This makes a healthy plateful of patties.

Ingredients:

2 Zucchini (about 350g), grated

2 C cooked rice

200g feta, grated

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 spring onions, finely sliced

1/2 C plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

1 T olive oil

Method:

Mix all ingredients together. Drop into a hot pan containing a light sheen of olive oil. Fry on each side until nicely browned.

Farinata Genovese

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Having just enjoyed this simple and savory snack in the streets of Portovenere, I wanted to enjoy this at home. It’s easier than pizza, but seems to hit the same spot quite effectively. We had this today with asparagus soup.

Ingredients:

1 C chickpea flour

1 1/2 C cold water

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 an onion or a whole large shallot

Rosemary

Black Pepper

Olive Oil

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220C

Place chickpea flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly add the water, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, cover, and let sit for a few hours. Consider one hour the minimum, but it does seem to get better with a bit more rest. I’d recommend 3 hours and up to 12 or so.

Pour a generous glug of olive oil into a cast iron skillet on a medium flame. When the oil is hot add the onion and cook until it just begins to colour. Pour in the batter and sprinkle the top with rosemary and black pepper.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until it is firm and is pulling away from the sides of the pan. Turn the broiler on towards the end so that it will become nicely golden brown. Remove to a cutting board and slice. Serve it straight away – it is best fresh.

A Rough Toasted Walnut and Parsley Pesto

Walnut and parsley pesto on bread with roasted cherry tomatoes.

Walnut and parsley pesto on bread with roasted cherry tomatoes.

Sometimes it’s important to trust the instincts. I was in the process of making pesto and stopped short of grinding it into a paste. I wanted something slightly more toothsome, and this did the trick. This is a pesto that may be made in a food processor, because it is only very roughly chopped. The final product should be ground down to the consistency of bulgur wheat or couscous and no more fine. It looks a lot like tabouli when it’s finished – so I suppose it belongs somewhere in between a paste and a salad. The nuts will still have some crunch and the parsley squeaks between the teeth. It’s delicious just on bread, or heavenly on a chunky pasta like penne.

Ingredients:

100g toasted walnuts (or Brazil nuts for extra crunch)

a large bunch of flat leaf parsley

2 cloves garlic

100g Pecorino Romano (Parmesan is fine too)

just enough extra virgin olive oil to moisten

sea salt to taste

Method:

Toast the nuts in a dry pan on the stovetop until lightly coloured. Allow to cool.

Grind the nuts with the garlic in a food processor, just long enough to mix them, then add the cheese and then the parsley in succession. Add just enough olive oil to keep the whole thing lubricated. And add a bit of wine to keep you lubricated as well.

I’ll tag this as an Italian recipe, but it’s really from London, my kitchen in particular. How much more local can you get?

Zuppa di Cozze Come la Fanno a Bosa – Sardinian Mussels Soup

View of Bosa, Sardinia along the River Temo from Serravalle's Castle (Malaspina), by Raffaele Sergi, Wikimedia Commons, accessed 19 December 2011

Knowing where a dish comes from is important. When one meets a new friend, the first questions are always “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?”. For our categorizing species, to be able to ascribe a location and a function to a person or a thing is the first step to understanding and appreciating. Bosa is a town on the northwestern coast of Sardinia, the streets of which I’ve explored through the wonders of the Internet, though I’ve never been there. Should I eventually arrive in Bosa in the flesh, I’ll certainly be looking for this wonderful soup, but for now it is at least a place which lives in my imagination, and its flavours live on my tongue.

This is a recipe which, after adaptation from Marcella Hazan, has appeared on Epicurious. I was suspicious of the recipe, its timings, and the order of its execution, so I offer it here with my own adaptations. Finely grated sheep’s milk cheese is the key to the immense savouriness of the broth. It may be possible to substitute Parmigiano Reggiano for the Fiore Sardo or Pecorino Romano, but the result would be inferior. Apparently some Sardinian cooks will use couscous instead of breadcrumbs. I have not yet tried this, but I think it would yield a quite different texture.

This recipe will serve two with salad (we had it last night with sautéed Cavolo Nero), bread, and all the trimmings, or four as a primi piatti.

Ingredients:

1 kilo live mussels

1/3 cup olive oil

1 heaping T chopped garlic (or more!)

1 small bunch chopped parsley

1/2 tsp dried chilies

2 T fine, dry, unflavoured breadcrumbs (mine is always homemade from totally dry stale bread. It sits in a jar waiting to be used.)

1/3 C finely grated Fiore Sardo or Pecorino Romano (or another hard sheep’s milk cheese)

1 glass dry white wine

1 400g can good quality canned plum tomatoes (Hazan recommends San Marzano tomatoes.)

Grilled crusty bread, a slice per serving

Method:

Clean and debeard the mussels. Here is a video that shows you how: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2Od7_XYye0

Heat the olive oil over a moderate flame in a 6 litre saucepan, and add the garlic. Stir occasionally until it becomes golden. Add the parsley, chilies, and breadcrumbs, and then shortly thereafter the wine.

When the wine is bubbling, add the mussels and stir them into the broth. When the mussels have started to open, add the grated cheese and then the tomatoes. Continue to cook until all the mussels have opened.

Either place a slice or two of grilled or toasted bread at the bottom of each bowl, or simply serve a pile of fresh bread along with the soup. It will be required for mopping the plate.

Marinated Venison Steaks

Marinated venison steak with gratin dauphinoise

We just had venison loin steaks about the size of a deck of cards (but thicker) and that was more than enough rich, flavourful meat. Venison is often paired with sweet sauces – often far too sweet. This one is sticky and rich, but not so horribly sweet. Just right. We ate this tonight with roast potatoes and vegetables and washed it down with an Austrian Blaufränkisch red, which because of its sprightly, mouthwatering acidity went with it surprisingly well.

Ingredients:

Venison steaks (one per person – if you are only making two steaks, cut the marinade recipe in half)

1 Cup soy sauce (for the earthy intensity I used half light soy and half mushroom dark soy sauce)

1/2 Cup oil (sunflower recommended)

3 T molasses (I used dark, but use anything from light to blackstrap depending on your tastes)

1 T ground ginger

2 T Dijon mustard

3 cloves garlic, minced

Method:

Mix the marinade in a bowl large enough to hold all your steaks. Add the steaks and coat them in the marinade. Allow them to marinate for 1/2 hour to an hour. Then either barbecue them or broil them for 3-5 minutes per side (roughly) for rare to medium rare. Don’t cook beyond medium, as venison becomes very dry when overcooked.

Chicken and Beet Greens Soup

Quick and simple.

Take 1 litre of chicken stock, heat it to a simmer and add two handfuls of leftover roast chicken, one finely chopped shallot, a bit of oregano, and three handfuls of macaroni pasta. Just before serving, toss in the roughly chopped greens from a bunch of beets. Crank a little black pepper over the top when serving.

We ate this tonight just with cheese bread and a full-bodied red wine from Cariñena. It’s warming and therapeutic and serves two generously.